Keeping the lights on in the Hidden Himalayas

by The Nepal Trust Vetted since 2011 Site Visit Verified
Happy with her new solar panel.
Happy with her new solar panel.

Dear Friends and Supporters

Our team in Nepal have just arrived back from the field. They have been leading a government evaluation team to check out our proposals for a new 5 year plan. This is an essential part of the approval process that, unfortunately, takes time and slows down our work in the field. The good news is they were very happy with what they saw and we should expect to receive the closing letter from the Social Works Council (SWC) within the next 1 - 2 weeks.

We can now move ahead with the final development of our new and innovative Renewable Energy Service Centre (SC). Working in collaboration with our chosen NGO the Local Initiative Development Support Consultancy Agency (LIDS) we can now start equipment procurement and fitting out of the SC.

During the groups stay in Humla there was a micro-hydro power failure in one of the villages they stayed in. This was a project built in the early 90s by a bi-lateral agency and with a long history of problems. Previously repairs have not been carried out urgently due to cost and having to get engineers from Kathmandu or India. The SC project will hopefully solve this problem and ensure the smooth running of the many schemes in the district. It will also provide a blueprint for similar schemes in other remote areas of the Himalayas.

Thank you for all your patience and support for this fantastic project. Clean renewable energy has made remarkable improvements to the health and wellbeing of the local inhabitants of this remote part of the world. The SC will ensure a stronger and more reliable future and encourage further development. Please tell your friends about us and encourage their support. Perhaps you know of renewable energy companies that might want to help?

Namaste

Clean light.
Clean light.
A happy father and son.
A happy father and son.
The Renewable Energy Service Centre
The Renewable Energy Service Centre
Service Centre 3-phase wiring
Service Centre 3-phase wiring
Limi kids
Limi kids

Dear Friends and Supporters. Progress continues to be slow in this project. While the infrastructure is now all in place we cannot begin operations until an agreement with the Social Works Council (SWC) is made. For International NGOs like ourselves it is necessary to make agreements in 5 year cycles. It is very bureaucratic and time consuming but we hope to have all signed and sealed within the next month. There are always mountains to climb in Nepal but if you focus hard you eventually get there!

In previous reports I have written about some of the work we have achieved that makes us one of the most successful promoters of renewable energy systems in Nepal. I would like to tell you about another one that was built 10 years a go by a group of older scouts from the north of England. This was a solar energy project in the village of Til in the beautiful Limi valley. Limi is the remotest hidden valley in the Nepal Himalayas, very close to Tibet and with a 5 days walk south to Simikot, the capital of Humla. It is, in fact, closer to Tibet and economically dependent on trade with China. There are three main villages in the Limi valley all of ethnic Tibetan stock and a treasure house of ancient Tibetan culture. A hydro electric scheme was built in Til 2 years earlier by the Nepal Trust but because of elevation and location it freezes in the winter months and has to be shut down. Solar panels have been provided to supply all year round clean energy as have each of the other villages in Limi.

The following report was prepared by a scout leader to describe their trip, and a life changing experience, to this remote region. All project funding was raised by the scouts.

Scouts Light Up the Lives of Villagers.

In August 2007 we, the Wharfedale Scouts, embarked upon an expedition in Nepal to install 50 solar panels in the remote village of Til in the Himalayas. The trip took thirty days including days either side of the trek to explore the Kathmandu valley and Humla district.

After a couple of days sightseeing around Kathmandu we took a sixteen and a half hour coach journey to Surkhet. We then had an unexpected helicopter ride up to Simikot and completed a trial walk to acclimatise. The night was spent in the Nepal Trust Guest House. The next day we set off on the trek, taking a trail over a 4988m pass in order to reach our destination.

It took us two and a half days to install the solar panels and on the third night the village had a celebration to thank us for the work, including traditional food, drinks, songs, drama and dance. In return we stood proudly and performed 'Kum bah yah' and 'On Ilkley Moor Ba Tat' and then spent the evening listening to more of their traditional music and joining in the dancing.

We were given a beautiful speech from one of the village leaders about how the solar panels would improve the village's education and general welfare before returning to Simikot via the Tibetan border. Our trip ended in the Kathmandu valley with a chance to go white water rafting. The trip was a life-changing, phenomenal, cultural experience for us all and so thank you ever so much to the Nepal Trust for giving us this opportunity!

I sincerely hope to have a better progress report next time and I hope you will bear with us. Choosing to work in such a remote and difficult region has its problems! Thanks for all your support and I hope you will continue to follow us. Tell your friends and remember, life without electricity wouldn't be much fun.

Namaste

Til village
Til village
Til Hydro powerhouse
Til Hydro powerhouse
Til Gompa
Til Gompa
Ceremonial masks
Ceremonial masks
Weaving cloth
Weaving cloth
Jerome and Jeroen meet
Jerome and Jeroen meet

Dear friends and supporters.

My apologies but there has been little movement with this project since my last report. As indicated then winter was on its way and moving about in the Hidden Himalayas can be problematic. This has proven to be the situation with, probably, one of the worst winters in living memory. Not a huge problem for local people who have to get on with their lives but difficult for outsiders.

Clean renewable energy is recognised as the power source of the future throughout the world. If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change we have to change our ways and act quickly. The remote parts of the Himalayas have little choice but to adopt these new technologies or continue with the traditional ways of deforestation and smoky oil lamps; bad for the environment and very bad for personal health. There is little chance of connection to a national grid and government support is negligable, their only real choice is to manage community based systems that require some expertise and technical support. That is why the Nepal Trust is so proactive in this area and very anxious to get this new Service Centre off the ground. We have an excellent record of supporting and maintaining the many installations constructed over the last 20 years but it is now time to build sustainability in to the system and that is why we need to have a locally managed Service Centre ready to deal with problems that are usually beyond the capabilities of poor hill farmers.

The village of Ghoti in south Humla is at the centre of rapid economic activity. The nearby village of Sakegad is home to a Nepal Trust Health Clinic and Birthing Centre. A new hospital is nearing completion and there is a busy secondary school, the only one outside Simikot. In 1998 village elders approached the Trust with the idea to construct a hydro electric scheme. They had a very good perpetual water source and the new clinic, the school, mills and homes would all benefit. Wood supplies were getting more and more difficult to source. The Trust agreed and a proposal was prepared. Unfortunately all plans had to be put on hold for a number of years due to the civil war that erupted and particularly as this area became a centre of rebel activity. 

When peace arrived interest was reignited and plans were resurrected. Costs, due to inflation, had risen steeply but the local people were enthusiastic and helped to source grants and provide local labour and resources during construction. The Ghoti scheme is probably one the largest private schemes in Nepal and provides power to 5 villages, schools, clinics, food and wood mills and has opened up a whole new area of economic possibilities.

Our Country Director, Jeroen van den Bergh, visited the area 9 months ago. Following is a short report he has prepared that demonstrates the need, some issues and the satisfaction of completing a much needed project.

When we visited Gothi in 2007 we had a big meeting on the rock with the entire community discussing the plans forward. In 2008 I revisited the site to sign all local contracts and await the first helicopters flying in as from 2008 onward we started the implementation of the project, which took over 4 years work, basically a day-to-day affair.

In order to ship in all the equipment by helicopters, we had to create a new helicopter platform, for which we had to fly in civil aviation and Nepal army to verify the site. So for this project we created an official landing site in the district.

At that time during my field trip, I also worked with a health worker called Jerome, as we had health volunteers during that period, helping out in the health post we constructed in the same area. He knew about the plans to construct a micro-hydro in Gothi since he was a young boy, so he couldn't believe that after almost 10 years it finally became a reality. The happiness on his face made me realize why we do this work. It was a genuine happy feeling. At that time Gothi was almost like a beehive village, with not much modern development. Many discussions took place and after 4 years of work the scheme was finally inaugurated and made operational. Now when visiting the site it was a great pleasure to see the scheme still working and especially the civil and mechanical components were in good condition. Gothi has been way more developed and more modern GI sheet roofs have taken over from traditional structures. A whole different sight.

A pleasant surprise was that on the way back to Simikot, I met Jerome with his new son along the way. We recognized each other instantly, which was a nice meeting after pretty much 10 years.

 The Ghoti project is one of many such projects the Trust has implemented over the years. If these remote mountain people are to survive they must adapt, which they are doing but they need our help. We still need your support to get this project off the ground so I hope you will continue to contribute in some way. Perhaps you can encourage friends, neighbours and colleagues to help? Do you know anyone with a passion for renewable energy and saving the planet that might be interested?

Thank you for all you have done to support our cause.

Namaste

Ghoti water source
Ghoti water source
Ghoti village
Ghoti village
Ghoti penstock pipe
Ghoti penstock pipe
The helicopter platform
The helicopter platform
Helicopter arrives with hydro parts.
Helicopter arrives with hydro parts.

Dear Friends and Supporters. Since our last report progress has been a little slow. Funds have been slow to materialize to complete the fitting out of this unique and much needed project. An earlier report highlighted the agreement we have made with our chosen partner who, having the necessary skills, will operate and manage this project. The Renewable Energy Service Centre will be partly subsidised by the Nepal Trust for an initial period but it is intended that the Centre will eventually run on a commercial basis to ensure viability and a sustainable future. We are still in discussion with our partner - Local Initiative Development Support Consultancy Agency (LIDS) - to draw up a full legal agreement. In Nepal this always takes time and winter is now drawing close.

It is worth looking back to why we need such a centre. When the Nepal Trust first went to Humla in 1994 there was virtually no renewable energy resource available. Simikot had a bank of solar panels that were available to only government offices. A small hydro scheme built by a bi-lateral agency just south east of Simikot had broken down and no longer worked. It remained that way because no one came back to fix it. This sort of problem existed elsewhere in Nepal and very often as the result of a simple malfunction - perhaps a $10 fuse! A problem for local villagers who could not isolate or fix it for themselves and a $200 flight to bring in a trained technician which they could not afford. 

Over the following years there has been a steady increase in the number of renewable energy installations both solar and micro-hydro. The Nepal Trust alone has installed both hydro and solar to provide electricity, light and power, to over 1500 households and 10000 people. In addition we have provided power sources to schools, health clinics, community centres, monasteries, mills and economic development resources such as the Great Himalayan Trail, the greatest trekking trail in the world. We can proudly say that everyone of our installations is still working because we are there and respond to problems and requests. Not so for others who build and then go away. However it is very important that we build sustainability in to the system and that is why the Service Centre idea has come in to being. We have the skills but we still need some funding to complete the dream.

For this idea and the work we have already achieved bringing renewable energy to the Hidden Himalayas we were recognised for a major environmental prize, the PremioItalgas prize for Projects in the Environment. This sums up our dedication and committment to bringing health and opportunity to this remote part of the world.

Thanks for your help and support and we hope you will help us to get over the finishing line. Perhaps you have friends or know someone whose passion is saving the planet or who works in the renewable energy industry. They just might want to help and support this amazing and unique project.

Namaste

Ghoti micro-hydro inaugarated
Ghoti micro-hydro inaugarated
Solar Lamps for the first time
Solar Lamps for the first time
No smokey lamps now!
No smokey lamps now!
Ghoti MHP operators in discussion
Ghoti MHP operators in discussion
Chyaduk MHP
Chyaduk MHP
Looking up the Ghoti valley
Looking up the Ghoti valley

A report by Dr Mike Love, Chairman The Nepal Trust UK.

Almost 20 years ago we were standing on the trail in the Karnali valley and looking up at the first electric light twinkling high above us at the newly commissioned Nepal Trust health post in Kermi in the remote NW Humla district of Nepal: it was with hindsight a very special moment.

Supplying these remote communities with the means to generate electricity is truly transformational: obviously light to see at night rather than using smoky candles and lamps makes a big difference, but the real impact is the means to recharge batteries. So much of modern life revolves around recharging: phones to communicate; smart phones and computers for email and internet access; larger batteries for satellite TV for information and education; hand held torches; and of course hand held power tools to carry out many of life’s daily tasks.

This year along with two board colleagues, we undertook a 10 day trek to revisit the biggest renewable energy scheme that the Nepal Trust constructed almost 10 years ago: the Ghoti Kola 50kw micro hydro facility that provides electricity to the three main villages in the Ghoti valley.

The system was handed over to the community in 2009 and has been operational ever since: led by the two operators we scrambled down the steep hill side to the building that hosts the turbine unit and generator units nestling beneath the great waterfall.

It was a very positive experience. The facility looked the best maintained of all of the micro hydro schemes we have installed over the years and the operators were well on top of the basic procedural issues associated with the safe running and operation of the system. However it also brought home the truly immense challenge of keeping the lights burning. Understanding and appreciating the importance of pro-active maintenance; sourcing a supply of the correct grease for lubricating the bearings; persuading the community to find the cash to invest in a stock of spares; accessing technical knowledge and repair capability. The Service Centre we are building and which we will report on shortly will, we hope, over the next 10 years be the key to further positive progress.

In any event well done to the team at Ghoti: keep the lights burning.

Another example of how change affects the lives of these remote people is a recent request from the village committee in Limi situated in the beautiful but very remote Limi valley, bordering Tibet. One of three villages in this magical place it freezes up in the winter and the hydro power system has to be shut down. Solar panels provide power during these cold months. After the recent winter the system failed to restart. The villagers have tried everything they know and have finally requested the Nepal Trust to help them out. Of course, this scheme is one of our earlier projects and we will help to sustain it but it is a very good example of why it is so important to get our new Service Centre up and running for long term sustainability.

We hope you will continue to support this project which impacts so heavily on the lives and the future of these remote communities. If they are to have a future at all then they must have access to clean renewable energy that will provide them with many of the things we take so much for granted. Clean, green power doesn't just provide light at night and power through the day it provides a healthy environment to bring up their kids. We all want that.

Thank you for your support for this essential project. Please talk to your friends about us and what we are trying to achieve. Friends, colleagues and businesses who themselves try to lead a lean, green lifestyle may be interested in supporting us.

Namaste. 

Ghoti village
Ghoti village
Ghoti power house nestling below waterfall
Ghoti power house nestling below waterfall
Ghoti power house operators
Ghoti power house operators
Inspecting penstock and spillway above Ghoti PH.
Inspecting penstock and spillway above Ghoti PH.
Request from Limi committee for help.
Request from Limi committee for help.
 

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Organization Information

The Nepal Trust

Location: Glasgow, Scotland - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.nepaltrust.org
Project Leader:
Tony Sharpe
Glasgow, Scotland United Kingdom
$4,270 raised of $60,000 goal
 
28 donations
$55,730 to go
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